May 1, 2009 12:00:50 am
Soundbites from politicians this campaign season appear to be more vitriolic than ever before. Or maybe it is just that,thanks to 24×7 television news,we now cannot escape listening to them spit venom against each other. Even the prime minister climbed down from his dignified,professorial,pedestal to take pot shots at L.K. Advani. Unlike Advani you will not find me weeping in a corner after failing to prevent the Babri Masjid demolition, was his caustic rejoinder to
Advanis assertion that he (Singh) was the weakest PM ever. When Narendra Modi described the Congress party as buddhiya (old woman) Congresspersons were outraged; Modi promptly switched to the epithet gudiya (young girl) which did not help matters. Sonia Gandhi accused Advani of telling a thousand lies to cover up his first lie on Kandahar. Former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi is also in the firing line; Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has filed a defamation suit against her. Congress general secretary,Digvijay Singh,has been reprimanded for suggesting that since the CBI was in the governments control,the party knew how to keep Mayawati in check. In Tamil Nadu,Jayalalithaa remarked tartly that while her government generated electricity,Karunanidhi has generated a swarm of mosquitoes.
And,of course,Varun Gandhi has touched a new low by his rabble-rousing speech in Pilibhit.
After giving an undertaking to the court not to make inflammatory speeches in the future,Gandhi has put up posters declaring Main boloonga to bolenge ki bolta hai (If I speak,they will say I am speaking too much.)
In this campaign,politicians are not simply lashing out at political rivals; so-called allies are pretty vicious towards their own side as well. Lalu Prasad has accused the Congress of being responsible for the Babri Masjid demolition. Pranab Mukherjee retaliated by remarking that Lalu should realise he had little chance of becoming a minister in the next government. Mukherjee later blamed his barb against Lalu on his poor command of Hindi,an excuse really too lame for anyone to buy. Samajwadi Party MLA Azam Khan attacked his party general secretary,Amar Singh,for imposing Jaya Prada as the SP candidate from Rampur in strong language. Amar Singh himself has a colourful turn of phrase,ad-libbing from movie dialogues.
It is not as if politicians in the past have not been chided for name-calling. But it was easier for them to deny their verbal outbursts in the era before live television and video cameras. Charan Singh as deputy prime minister dubbed his cabinet colleagues a bunch of impotents,Morarji Desai referred to Indira Gandhi as a chokri (girl) and Raj Narain,in what turned out to be a totally off-the-mark judgment,dubbed Indira a gungi gudiya (dumb doll). Pramod Mahajan got into hot water for comparing Sharad Pawar to Elizabeth Taylor for his proclivity for changing political partners.
Politicians claim that these tu-tu main-main exchanges are just part of election rhetoric; once the polls are over they will all be back on amicable terms. Many blame television for relaying crude remarks,meant only for dedicated cadre and to build up the tempo of the campaign,into our drawing rooms. Indeed,politicians like to pin the blame on television journalists for deliberately trying to provoke public men into making over-the-top remarks and accusations. It is correct,at least ,that like true Narad munis,after extracting a remark in bad taste,the TV scribes immediately rush to relay it to the rival camp and solicit their reactions. Often the election debates on television are structured not for a rational exchange of ideas,but for opponents to end up calling one another names.
Apart from crude language,politicians in this campaign have also been referring to one another in tones of such contempt and disdain that one wonders how,even after the dust of the campaign has settled,they will be able to look one another in the eye without mutual rancour and bitterness. If one were to take at face value what is said during the campaign,the possibility of government formation appears remote. Prakash Karat is emphatic that the Left will not support a Congress-led front. On the other hand,UPA allies like Sharad Pawar,Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan say there can be no UPA government without Left support. And can either the Congress or the BJP really serve as the loyal opposition to the party which forms the government,after so much bad blood has been spilled? Our politicians would do well to heed the advice of Comte de Talleyrand,Napoleans Chanakya,who shrewdly observed,Speech was given to man to conceal his thoughts.
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